Incorporated in March 1976, the Dredging Corporation of India’s (DCI) main objective is to cater to the dredging requirements of major ports. Apart from the traditional dredging segments involving capital and maintenance dredging, DCI’s portfolio of services now also includes inland/shallow water dredging, beach nourishment, project management consultancy and sand mining, among others. Its current fleet includes 12 trailer suction hopper dredgers with a total hopper capacity of 67,420 cubic metres, two cutter suction dredgers with an installed power of 23,571 kW, one inland cutter suction dredger with an installed power of 1,380 kW, one backhoe dredger with a dredging depth of up to 19 metres chart datum and a bucket capacity of 9 cubic metres, one self-propelled twin screw tug, and three survey launches with state-of-the-art technology equipment.
In the past decade, there have been significant changes in India’s dredging policy, and accordingly the role of DCI has been changing as well. Earlier, DCI was the only dredging company in the country to take care of the requirements of the major ports, the Indian Navy and other maritime organisations. It secured projects on a nomination basis and did not face any competition. However, due to changes in the dredging policy by the government, the market has opened up to all dredging companies. DCI now has to compete not only with local and national dredging companies but with international ones as well.
DCI has been able to remain strong in the dredging market and has been able to generate revenues despite stiff competition. However, the revenue generated from dredging activities has stagnated at Rs 6 billion-Rs 7 billion from 2009-10 to 2015-16. On the other hand, during the same period, the dredging requirement at major ports witnessed a growth of 11 per cent.
To acquire an increasing share of the market, DCI has recently diversified into other areas of dredging operations such as shallow water dredging, sand mining, land reclamation, inland dredging, etc. It has appointed marketing consultants and business associates in both national and international markets, for exploring opportunities in the sector.
The way forward
A worldwide review of the dredging market shows a lot of opportunities in the sector, across segments. According to global estimates, by 2030, traditional segment of dredging is estimated to grow by 5 per cent, the land reclamation segment by 3 per cent, the coastal protection segment by 2 per cent, and the tourism segment by 5 per cent.
In the past decade, India’s seaborne trade has grown at a rate of 3.3 per cent, which is twice the global rate. Cargo traffic at Indian ports is expected to reach 3.05 billion tonnes per annum by 2025. Port projects involving an investment of over $10 billion are expected to be awarded in the next five years. This augurs well for the domestic dredging sector. There is a need to build a sustainable domestic dredging industry that in the long term is both capable and competitive.
For this, several issues that have been hampering sector growth need to be addressed. There is a need to set up dedicated training
centres/institutes for training the present manpower to copeup with technological changes. Another major challenge pertains to the lack of research and development facilities in the dredging industry. The country needs facilities for research on the slurry produced during dredging, the pumps and cutters used, and efficient and innovative dredging techniques, keeping in view India’s long and diverse coastal area. Further, there is a need to set up adequate dredger building facilities in the country so as to reduce the cost of mobilisation of dredgers and their components. At present, most of the spares for dredgers are procured from original equipment manufacturers based abroad. Such spares need to be manufactured in the country itself to reduce costs and ensure availability as and when required.
Along with the building and procurement of parts for dredgers, the shortage of dredge repair facilities in the country is an issue that also needs to be addressed to reduce the downtime of dry docks, and ensure maximum utilisation of available resources.
Increasing the reliability of the soil data provided by the ports for their respective dredging requirements is another area which needs the attention of all the stakeholders.
As the only public sector undertaking in the dredging industry, DCI has significant scope for increasing its share in the market. It is estimated that the total opportunity (for both public and private companies) for dredging work is worth about Rs 20 billion in the next five years. Despite the challenges, DCI is determined to enhance its business of meeting the dredging needs of ports, and undertaking project management consultancy and shallow water dredging services. w
Based on a presentation by V.K. Praviraj, general manager, marketing, and Suresh Kumar, joint general manager, marketing, DCI, at a recent India Infrastructure conference